Surviving The Dreaded Performance Review
I cried through the whole thing.
Of course, I attempted to do it in a sophisticated way like Audrey Hepburn at the end of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, standing gorgeously in the rain clutching her nameless cat. But I’m sure I wasn’t sophisticated. My tears were ugly and big, and broken up by awkward gasps.
No, no one died. I simply received my first annual review from my current employer. On a scale of 1 to 6 I had received the overall score of a 3, meaning that my supervisors felt I had “met expectations.” To a severe perfectionist and lifelong over achiever, this was devastating news.
The specific feedback I received was mostly helpful and a lot of it was actually encouraging. But regardless of the specific wording that was used to explain my score, I walked away believing I was a complete failure.
I came to work the next day, feeling like I was wearing the number 3 on my blouse like a scarlet letter. I was sure that the leaders of the firm were looking at me saying, “There is our Marketing Coordinator. Ehh, she’s OK,” or “She is not really impressive, but I guess we are fine if she still works here.” I wanted to scream back, that I was not OK, being just OK, that I wanted them to think I am awesome. But I didn’t.
(Have you ever felt that desperate desire for approval? I think we all have a little bit of that hunger inside of us, whether we are seeking approval from our boss, our friends, or a family member. I just didn’t recognize how much that desire was controlling me at the time.)
I mulled over different things that I could do to earn a higher score next year and I investigated all the parts of myself that my supervisors might say, do not “meet expectations.” And everyday I felt smaller and my confidence diminished, and my obsession with what everyone thought of me grew larger.
The next week, I mustered all the confidence I had left and went back to my supervisor to ask him questions about my review. I told him that I have high standards for myself, and that, to me, it was absolutely unacceptable to just “meet expectations.” I asked him what I needed to do to receive a score of a 6 and I assured him that I was capable of getting there.
But, instead of giving me a checklist of things to do to receive a higher score, he gently asked me a question that I will remember for the rest of my life:
“Morgan… are you more worried about what I think of you than what God thinks of you?”
What he meant was this: My significance is not in a number, a score, or even a job title. While striving for excellence is commendable and even encouraged in Scripture (Phil. 4:8), being regarded as excellent is not what defines my true value. My worth is in my relationship with Christ and my identity as His daughter (Galatians 3:26).
When I let his question sink into my soul, I cried. Again. And not like Audrey Hepburn either. But this time I didn’t cry because my pride was hurt, I was grieving.
I realized the story I had been living that year, the one where the ultimate goal was singing praises from the partners of our company, was pathetic. A story lived for the approval of other people is boring, fake, and exhausting. This was not at all what it looks like to, “take hold of life that is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:17-19.)
Until I sat weepy-eyed across from my boss, I had never realized how much the fear of rejection and the fear of failure rob joy and life from my story. God has been slowly working to untangle me from the tight cords of bondage those fears have trapped me in. I am daily grateful that my God does not operate on performance-based acceptance, He simply loves me because I am His. In fact, He is proud of me. And I am learning to find freedom in that truth.
This year’s annual review period is right around the corner and while I still pursue excellence at work my perspective on my review is a different. I realize now that a 6 on my annual review is not what makes my story a page-turner. Page-turning stories are written when you pursue a much greater cause than your own career advancement.
Instead, I want to live a vibrant story that is characterized by deep meaningful relationships, joyful sacrifice, and brave acts of love and selflessness. I want my story to be one where the ultimate goal is to become more like Christ and to bring Him glory, not myself.
What about you?
Are you allowing the truth that you are a beloved son or daughter of the King define your story more than your accomplishments, failures, or the score on your annual review?
“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.”
“Am I trying to win the approval of men or of God? … If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”